Subha Speaks Out

In Am­s­ter­dam, a city of im­mi­grants, peace and pros­per­ity pre­vail. Why can’t we fol­low suit?

Working Mother - - Contents -

How the city of Am­s­ter­dam thrives on di­ver­sity.

Iwas re­cently in Am­s­ter­dam with my fam­ily to cel­e­brate my daugh­ter’s milestone 30th birth­day and my son’s grad­u­a­tion from Hamil­ton Col­lege. In my four days walk­ing all over the city, I was struck by sev­eral things. I saw only one po­lice of­fi­cer—and not a sin­gle home­less per­son. The peo­ple were gen­tle, po­lite and warm. This was in stark con­trast to New York City, San Fran­cisco and Chicago, among the U.S.’s largest and most vi­brant cities, and even some other Euro­pean cities, such as Paris and Lon­don.

As I delved into what the rea­sons for this could be, I learned that among the pop­u­la­tion of about 844,000 peo­ple—55 per­cent Dutch and 45 per­cent eth­nic mi­nori­ties—there are 180 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, mak­ing it one of the most di­verse cities in the world. Throw in lots of cannabis cof­fee shops, a le­gal red-light dis­trict and a live-and-let-live at­ti­tude; this is a city with a cul­ture of ac­cep­tance.

The non-Dutch came as im­mi­grants in the 16th and 17th cen­turies—some to es­cape re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion and oth­ers for bet­ter eco­nomic con­di­tions. They were Sephardic Jews, Huguenots, Flem­ings and West­phalians. In the 20th cen­tury, In­done­sians ar­rived af­ter their coun­try’s lib­er­a­tion from the Dutch East In­dia Com­pany, fol­lowed by guest work­ers from Italy, Spain, Morocco and Turkey, and then Suri­namese af­ter ceas­ing to be part of a Dutch colony. The Nether­lands was one of the first coun­tries in the world to rec­og­nize same-sex mar­riage; they’re in­cred­i­bly wel­com­ing of the LGBTQ

com­mu­nity. It’s clear that like the U.S., they are a coun­try of im­mi­grants. So, what are they do­ing dif­fer­ently that causes there to be a wel­com­ing calm and gen­eros­ity of spirit com­pared with the up­heaval we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in the United States?

For one, the coun­try’s and city’s gov­ern­ments value the ben­e­fits that ac­crue from hav­ing di­ver­sity in their pop­u­la­tions; they spend time and money on pol­i­cy­mak­ing to en­sure a cul­ture of in­clu­sion. For ex­am­ple, even in less-af­flu­ent com­mu­ni­ties that tend to be in­hab­ited by eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups, the gov­ern­ment does ev­ery­thing in its power to pre­vent the for­ma­tion of ghet­tos. Plus, there’s a re­flec­tion of the di­ver­sity of the pop­u­la­tion across gov­ern­ment work­ers. And the Mul­ti­cul­tural Eman­ci­pa­tion Bureau has an om­buds­man ser­vice for women and mul­ti­cul­tural peo­ple, which, along with many pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions, en­sure sup­port for black, white and im­mi­grant women.

The ques­tion that begs to be asked is how have Am­s­ter­dam and the Nether­lands lever­aged their di­ver­sity to cre­ate both in­clu­sion and a suc­cess­ful cap­i­tal­is­tic so­ci­ety while we strug­gle to do so? Is it our his­tory of slav­ery? Is it that there is no

“How have Am­s­ter­dam and the Nether­lands lever­aged their di­ver­sity to cre­ate both in­clu­sion and a suc­cess­ful cap­i­tal­is­tic so­ci­ety while we strug­gle to do so?”

equiv­a­lent of a thriv­ing and suc­cess­ful indigenous pop­u­la­tion like their Dutch com­mu­nity? Is it be­cause our gov­ern­ment does not go far enough to pre­vent poverty and seg­re­ga­tion? Is it be­cause our Pu­ri­tan­i­cal fore­fa­thers were so judg­men­tal that the men­tal­ity that pun­ishes wrong­do­ing so harshly has seeped into our coun­try’s DNA?

I don’t have an­swers, but I know one thing:

I wish we were more like the Dutch—and I re­ally wish New York were still New Am­s­ter­dam!

Tran­quil­ity is nearly ubiq­ui­tous in Am­s­ter­dam.

SUBHA BARRY Pres­i­dent, Work­ing Mother Me­dia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.